Inspired and Blessed by Bob Acebedo
Inspired & Blessed

Lasting Happiness Is Finding Purpose, Giving, And Being Grateful

Dec 18, 2021, 12:07 AM
Bob Acebedo

Bob Acebedo

Columnist

FOR some – if not, most – people, happiness can be measured in terms of having more – more money like winning the lottery, more property like house(s) or car(s), more profits in a business venture, more salary from a job, more power or fame.

But, psychologists aver that these cannot provide lasting or all-embracing happiness due to a phenomenon called, “hedonic adaptation”.

Hedonic adaptation is the withering feeling of happiness about something – say, a dream house or car – after having or possessing it. It is “getting used” to it, the “happy” feeling of possessing it dies down, and the craving for more – more money, wealth, property, fame, or power – accelerates anew.

If not wealth, fame or power, where else can we find lasting or encompassing happiness?

I would like to proffer three profound sources: Purpose, Giving, and Gratitude.

Purpose

Happiness, in Greek etymology, is “eudaimonia”, which literally means “human flourishing”. In other words, according to the ancient Greeks, happiness is but a flourishing of one’s full potential.

Similarly, the Greek word for purpose is “telos”, which the Greek philosopher Aristotle defines as the “full potential of a person,” or “supreme end of man’s endeavor”.

From this brief etymological background, therefore, it can be said that happiness and purpose are undeniably correlated, that profound or lasting happiness springs from finding and fulfilling one’s life-purpose.

But, how do we find and realize our purpose?

Purpose is using our deep strength and potential to serve or benefit others. It is less about what we want than what we give.

The true nature of a human person is to relate with others. “No man is an island,” so the classic song goes.

We did not come into this world – nay “conceived by the Holy Spirit” like Christ did – alone, but through our parents and into a God-given social unit, which is our family.

Hence, if it is human natural law that we have to relate with others, it behooves then adducing that our human purpose implies that we are meant not only for ourselves but for others, that we are meant not only being a blessed but also being a blessing to others too. For, truly, to serve others – being our purpose – is to benefit ourselves, to bless others is also to bless ourselves.

In a sense, thus, finding and realizing our purpose can be equated with lasting happiness.

Giving

While our human purpose is to serve others, so too we can find lasting happiness in GIVING. Verily, the oft-quoted truism, “happiness is not what we get, but what we give,” can never run out of relevance.

In a 2006 study, Jorge Moll and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health (USA) found that when people give to charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social correlation, and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect.

The joy of giving lasts longer than the joy of getting. This was proven likewise by two 2018 studies where psychology researchers Ed O’Brien (University of Chicago Booth School of Business) and Samantha Kassirer (Northwestern University Kellog School of Management) found that participants’ happiness did not decline if they repeatedly bestowed gifts on others versus repeatedly receiving those same gifts themselves.

Giving is enshrined in the religious or theological principle of “love”, which is the greatest of all commandments. And the greatest gift of love that we can give is ourselves, our own life, for the benefit of others and for the greater glory of God.

Gratitude

Now, we go to the third source for lasting happiness, GRATITUDE.

Harvard Medical School professor Sanjiv Chopra, in his TEDx talk recently, said: “Research has shown that if you express gratitude on a regular basis, you’ll be happy, you’ll be more creative, you’ll be more fulfilled – you might even live ten years longer.”

If love is the greatest of all commandments, gratitude is the greatest of all virtues. Even more, for the pre-Christian philosopher Cicero, “gratitude is not only the greatest of all virtues, but the parent of all virtues.”

Hence, gratitude is a necessary consequence of love, and is inseparable from love.

Contemporary science (HeartMath Institute, California) claims that gratitude can generate smooth, rhythmic heart coherence and increases dopamine in our brain, the stuff that makes us feel good.

Gratitude, indeed, is a wellspring of blessings and graces. By gratefully reciprocating the goodness of God or of another person, we amplify the goodwill or blessing that we receive. As we bestow our gratefulness, it does not only please the one we are grateful to, but our gesture of gratefulness benefits ourselves or somehow comes back to us, effecting a profound or lasting happiness on our part.

In sum, the more we are grateful for, the more will find things to be grateful for – and the happier we are.


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